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Sinn Féin using Coveney no confidence motion to ‘divide and conquer’, says Taoiseach

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The Taoiseach has described the threat of a Sinn Féin motion of no confidence in Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney as an attempt “to divide and conquer”.

Micheál Martin said he expected all Fianna Fáil members to support Mr Coveney in any such vote, should it arise, adding the rules of the party were clear – to support the party and the Government.

He also said he could have “and maybe should have” blocked the appointment of Katherine Zappone as special envoy to the UN for freedom of expression when it came up at Cabinet but said his focus had been on issues more important to the country.

Commenting on the threat of a no-confidence motion, Mr Martin told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland it was an example of “old style, naked politics” and it was “a bit rich coming from Sinn Féin”.

Mr Coveney had apologised on a number of occasions, and to him personally, and had gone before the Oireachtas committee, the Taoiseach said, adding there needed to be some perspective on the issue.

Mr Martin said he did not believe it was an issue that merited resignation – “that’s not proportionate”.

Discussing the issue further on Newstalk Breakfast, Mr Martin said: “If I am honest I think it was wrong. I think perception is important in public life. The Minister has apologised to me for not alerting us and that is important.

“We have agreed it won’t happen again but there does need to be perspective and balance as well. We are talking about a part-time envoy to the UN for Ireland,” he said.

“The position I took on it, I flagged the necessity that there would be proper flagging of these appointments to Government, but in my view it wasn’t of an order given everything else that was on the agenda that day, and my focus was very much on the bigger items that were on the agenda.”

‘Insider dealing’

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has called on Mr Martin to sanction Mr Coveney and said she believes he should be sacked. She said the possibility of a motion of no confidence in Mr Coveney was “on the table”.

The Labour Party said it would support a motion of no confidence in Mr Coveney if one was tabled in the Dáil.

Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll McNeill accused Sinn Féin of adopting a “purely populist approach”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, she said the issue was one of proportion and balance. When Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley had sent “an appalling tweet” she had not sought his resignation, she had asked him to account for himself.

But Sinn Féin’s housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin described the appointment of Ms Zappone as “old style insider dealing”. This was how Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael “do business”.

Ms Carroll McNeill said Mr Ó Broin’s approach was “Trumpian” and an attempt at generating headlines.

However, Mr O Broin said Mr Coveney’s response to the issue had not been credible and that after seven weeks there still had not been a credible response from the Government. Mr Coveney would have to address the “inconsistencies”.

Mr Coveney appeared before the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs for two hours earlier this week, rejecting suggestions he offered Ms Zappone the special envoy job before his officials carried out the work to create it.

The Government also has strongly rejected Opposition claims that the appointment of Ms Zappone to the role, that she later declined because of the controversy, amounted to “cronyism”.

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Tetchy Tánaiste stirs the Stormont pot

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Some of the most petulant reaction to the latest protocol row has come from Fine Gael, which may explain unwise comments on direct rule and a Border poll from Leo Varadkar.

Speaking at a Co-operation North event in Dublin on Tuesday night, the Tánaiste said direct rule was not a viable long-term alternative to devolution. If Stormont is not restored quickly other options must be considered, with the best forum to do so being the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC) of the Belfast Agreement.

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Tiny one-room flat with BATH in the lounge and kitchen by the bed is up for rent at £1,000-a-month

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Tiny one-room flat with BATH in the lounge and kitchen just few feet away from the bed goes up for rent for £1,000-a-month in London

  • A cramped studio flat that is up for rent in south London is so small it has a bath located in the lounge
  • The property, that is in the ‘highly sought after’ Wimbledon area, has a bed only feet away from the kitchen
  • Renters will have to fork out over £1,000-a-month to live in the odd space, though bills are included

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A tiny studio flat has been mocked because it costs over £1,000-a-month to rent and the bath is located in the lounge.

While the bed is found only feet away from the kitchen area, with a giant telly on the wall.

The south London property is on the market to rent for an eye-watering amount considering its size.

The bath is right by the back door leading out to a small private area on a patio garden.

The listing states that it has been ‘designed to maximise the space available’ and adds that the bathroom has ‘been cleverly designed to be fully hidden from view’, but this appears just to be a shower curtain.

A compact studio flat in Wimbledon is charging more than £1,000 a month for the luxury of having a bath in the lounge (pictured)

A compact studio flat in Wimbledon is charging more than £1,000 a month for the luxury of having a bath in the lounge (pictured)

The property's bed is located just feet away from the 'Kitchenette area', which boasts a microwave and kettle

The property’s bed is located just feet away from the ‘Kitchenette area’, which boasts a microwave and kettle

The flat has a 'self contained pied-a-tierre' (pictured) with a small table and two chairs

The flat has a ‘self contained pied-a-tierre’ (pictured) with a small table and two chairs

The flat in upmarket Wimbledon Village will cost lodgers £1,150 per month – or £265 per week – to live in it.

Bills are included within the rental and there is a secure parking space available.

One home hunter fumed: ‘London cost of living is so disgusting that you pay £1,150 per month to rent a bath in a bed/kitchen as advertised on Rightmove today.

‘Living in a decent home is an essential and fundamental basic human right.

‘It shouldn’t be a privileged novelty.’

The letting agent said it would be ideal for someone to rent for the Wimbledon tennis tournament which starts next month.

The All England Tennis Club, where the grass championship is hosted, is just half a mile away.

A Twitter user bashed the listing, calling the price of the studio flat 'disgusting'

A Twitter user bashed the listing, calling the price of the studio flat ‘disgusting’

The listing says the flat is 'finished to an exceptional standard' and is available for short term rent

The listing says the flat is ‘finished to an exceptional standard’ and is available for short term rent

The toilet is found opposite to the bath and appears to have more than a curtain separating it from the lounge, unlike the bath

The toilet is found opposite to the bath and appears to have more than a curtain separating it from the lounge, unlike the bath

It is being let by CHK Mountford and advertised via Rightmove, the property listing reads: ‘Set on the ground floor of a wonderful detached private residence in the heart of Wimbledon Village is this self-contained pied a tierre.

‘The property has been immaculately refurbished to a very high standard and has been cleverly designed to maximise the space available.

‘To the front of the property is a small private patio.

‘The room is fully furnished and there is a small kitchenette area complete with sink, microwave and fridge.

‘There is a separate WC and a bath which has been cleverly designed to be fully hidden from view if required plus a generous storage cupboard/wardrobe.

‘One parking space is available and is set behind the properties private gates offering complete secure parking.

‘This property would be ideal for a working professional looking for a weekday base and who is looking for something which is centrally located and finished to a high standard.

‘All bills are included within the monthly rental.

‘Available on a short or long term basis, please note that for a short term rental the cost would be on a weekly basis.

‘And would be at a higher rental amount than for a long term tenancy – please contact the office directly for verification of the weekly rental.

‘The property is available for rental during Wimbledon Tennis event and is the perfect base for those wanting to be close to the site and have secure parking in addition.’

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Truss made ‘turnips in truck’ Brexit remark about Ireland, former diplomat says

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UK foreign secretary Liz Truss told a US audience three years ago that the impact of a no-deal Brexit on Ireland would only “affect a few farmers with turnips in the back of their trucks,” a former UK diplomat said.

Alexandra Hall Hall, a former Brexit counsellor at the UK embassy in the US, disclosed on Twitter on Tuesday night that Ms Truss made the remarks to a US audience three years ago.

The former career diplomat revealed in an article she wrote in a US academic journal last year that a UK government minister made the remarks but she did not identify the minister at the time.

Last night Ms Hall Hall retweeted a tweet by Ms Truss in which the foreign secretary said the UK government’s “first priority is to uphold the Belfast Agreement” – the 1998 deal that underpins the Northern Ireland peace process. Ms Truss shared a link to her House of Commons speech in which she set out plans to introduce legislation to override the Northern Ireland Brexit deal.

Retweeting the message, Ms Hall Hall said: “So pleased to see Liz Truss become a genuine expert on Irish matters. She was, after all, the minister who told a US audience three years ago that Brexit would not have any serious impact in Ireland . . . it would merely ‘affect a few farmers with turnips in the back of their trucks.’”

‘Under strain’

Ms Truss told the UK parliament that the protocol had put the Belfast Agreement “under strain” because of opposition by Unionist parties, citing this as a reason to plan to introduce new legislation in the coming weeks to scrap parts of the Northern Ireland Brexit deal.

Ms Hall Hall wrote in the Texas National Security Review journal last year that during her time as a diplomat in Washington, DC that Boris Johnson’s government damagingly played down the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland’s peace process in statements intended for US audiences.

She resigned from her job in late 2019 because she said she was unwilling to “peddle half-truths on behalf of a government I do not trust,” she said in her resignation letter.

In her article last autumn, she described the “turnip” remarks – without naming Ms Truss at the time – as a “low point” of her time in Washington when the UK minister “openly and offensively” in front of a US audience dismissed the impact of a no-deal Brexit on Irish businesses.

Ms Truss, then the UK secretary of state for international trade, was visiting Washington at the time to meet the then US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross and the US trade representative Robert Lighthizer, both members of US president Donald Trump’s administration, and other politicians.

In the academic article, she said he had become “increasingly dismayed by the way in which our political leaders have tried to deliver Brexit, with reluctance to address honestly, even with our own citizens, the challenges and trade-offs which Brexit involves.”

She took issue in the article – entitled: “Should I stay or should I go? The dilemma of a conflicted civil service – with the UK government’s “use of misleading or disingenuous arguments about the implications of the various options” with Brexit.

Ms Hall joined the UK foreign office in 1986 and served in various roles around the world, including in Bangkok, New Delhi and Bogota before serving as British ambassador in Georgia.

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